Today marks the 11th day of Guatemala’s official lockdown due to Covid-19 and it certainly had a few unexpected events for me.
I had arranged to meet with one of our youth at the centre to pass on the food and care package for his family, which he had been unable to collect when we gave them out the previous Tuesday.
It was a lovely sunny morning, yet still fresh at 8:30am, so I decided to walk.
To enjoy the walk more and reduce risk I didn’t take my bag, only my keys, ID and Q100 (£10).
Q50 (£5) was for Danilo as part of the wage he was due from his job as one of our helpers at the centre.
I arrived at the centre in time to join the team Zoom call, during which we prayed together, lifting the families and vulnerable street people we work with before God. We also prayed for Guatemala and the world at this challenging time. It is a blessing to be part of such a gifted and servant-hearted team.
After our meeting, as I waited for Danilo, I pottered about the centre; sweeping up dead cockroaches (I lead a glamorous life) and watering the plants. These tasks were a bit unexpected but they kept me busy as Danilo was running a bit late. However, they were nothing in comparison to the turn of events that the rest of my morning held.
As I waited, I received two phones calls that were both relevant to how the rest of the day unfolded.
First one of my work friends called; a shopping order had been made on our behalf at a near by supermarket and he wanted to know if I could go with Danilo to collect it. What a huge blessing that people are still willing to donate during this difficult time. Actually, we have seen a lot of generosity in recent weeks especially food for the vulnerable families we work with, which has been a huge encouragement and support.
Of course, I was happy to go and collect it, although a little nervous to go too. I was sent the receipt and assured that the supermarket was close by and that the guys at the supermarket would help bring the delivery to our centre.
Next, our director called to ask if I had the money for Danilo, I said yes, but then we realised I had misunderstood the amount and was short. He had told me Q500 not Q50. Numbers in Spanish are tricky for me and I had heard wrong. But never mind, I could give him the Q100 today and the rest next week.
I knew Danilo wouldn’t mind and would also be happy to help me collect the donation.
Danilo arrived shortly after and, having given him his Q100, we were soon on our way into ‘La Terminal’ to find the supermarket. This sounds easy, but the streets of La Terminal are never quiet, not even during a lockdown. Thankfully we were setting off well before the curfew hours.
After going to the wrong supermarket, we went further into La Terminal, through the crowds, being careful not to get too close to anyone, and found where we needed to be. Finally, when I explained about the photo of a receipt I had on my phone for the fourth time – as a slight aside this is one of those beautiful yet crazy things about Guatemala, apparently a photo of a receipt is enough to collect shopping you didn’t pay for yourself even with good but not amazing Spanish – I was directed to a manager whose signature was on the receipt in question.
She seemed a little intense and busy, but I plucked up the courage to disturb her. She was happy but quick to wave over one of her staff to assist and gave her nod of approval about the order and me collecting it.
Having waited to get into the supermarket, and only having been allowed in alone, and after been ‘sprayed’ with anti-bacterial fluid, I waited a further 25 minutes for the order. At this point I was wanting the process to be a bit quicker but, when in Guate, especially during a nationwide, worldwide, lock down situation, waiting is what you do.
Finally, our donation was ready, but wait, problem. It was all loaded up on a trolley but we were not able to go anywhere. I was outside the store with the guys, donation ready to go, when they told me they couldn’t take it to our centre. Granted it was about 6 blocks away, a ten-minute walk through a busy market, but what else could I do? They told me to ask their manager because they couldn’t say yes.
So back into the supermarket I went, with my best smile ready to politely ask for a big favour.
Well, her no was a no, despite my best efforts explaining we are a charity that help vulnerable families, she could not or would not budge. Now I was a bit annoyed and disappointed.
The traffic outside was gridlocked, so we couldn’t take an Uber or Taxi, and we couldn’t carry it. She would not even allow us to borrow the trolley. I understand that rules are rules, and why make an exception for us, but rejection still hurts.
They unloaded our donation onto the street and Danilo and I stood looking at it for a minute.
He decided to go into La Terminal and find someone to help carry it.
So, there I stood getting sunburnt, perhaps an unimportant detail but the sun is just another danger to contend with, and waited some more. Being reminded with every look, that I am a white lady in a Latino world.
Danilo saved the day and returned with a man who apparently had the ability to defy gravity. The man proceeded to load up the boxes onto a strap he held with his forehead! What!? They left for the centre and I found some shade to stand in as I contemplated having to ask Danilo for the money back to pay this man helping us.
On the second and final trip back to the centre I told Danilo I had not come into the centre with anything, I didn’t have my card or any more cash. He said he had already guessed and was happy to pay the man and, what’s more, buy us all a refreshing coke. What an absolute champion.
These are the kind of men we are raising.
I was a bit out of my depth today but God had placed Danilo with me, one of the young men in the group which I lead, for support. Well actually to take the lead. After all, this is his world not mine, the student became the teacher and I couldn’t be happier. It was humbling and an honour to let him take the reins and to trust him to get things done.
The most unexpected part of my day was being blessed with the gift of seeing in action just how far Danilo has come. He is not just one of my youth, he is one of our team and a good friend. I’m so proud of him. It was my pleasure to put him in an Uber home with food for his family whilst I walked home, of course with the promise of his wage in full next week.
Today God showed me to not focus on the difficult unexpected moments, such as going to the wrong supermarket or not being given help when in need of it, but instead to focus on the amazing unexpected moments, like seeing and getting to be a tiny part of a boy, with a difficult past, becoming a good man.
Maybe at this time of complete upset amidst the very unexpected Covid-19 pandemic, there are also some amazing unexpected things to come and be thankful for. Opportunities to be Church outside of a building or a service, families coming back together and maybe even being saved from breakdown, chances to finally do those forgotten or pushed aside projects, more time to spend with the one who loves us most, Jesus.
I in no way make light of our current situation and the reality or severity of it, but I know a God in whom there in freedom from fear and who always works all things for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)